StoriesQuattro Staggioni-style mountain bike tours
Gliding downhill, perspiring along the cool Lütschine river, and seeing the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau from their most beautiful aspect – a biking tour from Grindelwald to the Allmendhubel.
Just don’t ask me about my favourite tour! Because then I’ll squirm like the taxi driver I met in the middle of Naples a few days ago. When I asked him, "where's the best pizza?", he looked in the rearview mirror, raised an eyebrow and declared: "Signora, you are in the pizza capital. No matter where you eat pizza – or whether they cost 2 euros or 12 – it will always be the best in the world".
I grew up in Grindelwald. My home village in terms of area is the second largest municipality in the canton of Bern and everything – including the school, the swimming pool and the train station – is over 20 minutes walk away. And the place is not flat, except down on the valley floor, so we were always very physically fit. That is why the children in Grindelwald grow up on a mountain bike and this influences them for the rest of their lives. (When my friend first saw me riding my old bike with basket and three gears in our adopted home of Zurich, he commented dryly: "My dear, you should be riding your old mountain bike in the city, or else you will either end up on a tram track or on top of a car".)
«Naples is to pizza what the Bernese Oberland is to mountain biking – paradise. What space! What mountains! What a panorama! Route 1001!»
I could take some time out here and take you on a tour lasting at least six hours. But since I am pregnant and am carrying a small "co-rider" who tests my patience and who boxes me in the ribs every time I drink some cold water, I have come up with some completely new ideas this season. And of course I want to minimise the risk of falling over too. So, do come with me:
We set off from Grindelwald and rode along the old road to Zweilütschinen. On this route, the wind off the Black Lütschine always cools me down a bit. And sometimes I ride a bit slower – and admire the beautiful chalets and gardens I never get to see from the main road. The gentle slope towards Lauterbrunnen was easy to manage for, after all, the bike path mostly runs through shady areas and right along the banks of the White Lütschine. In Lauterbrunnen we had two options: the easy one that takes you by cable car to the Grütschalp, and the difficult one that runs along the forest road up the Winteregg. We took the cable car and looked down from on high, full of fascination, at the downhill cracks flying a few metres below us along the new trail.
From the Grütschalp we took the gravel road over the Winteregg (which one encounters again later, depending on the tour option chosen) towards Mürren. Here we shared the trail with hikers and took care accordingly. But it was well worthwhile to take our time when negotiating the bends because soon we could enjoy the finest views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. At the Palace Hotel in Mürren we turned right towards Allmendhubel and rode up between new holiday chalets towards the forest. Because of a cattle fence and uneven ground we had to descend briefly – before reaching the route that took us to Allmendhubel.
The gravel road became a tarred road for a short stretch. This was lucky for us as the ascent would be difficult even for a mountain goat. With the sun on our necks, and the magnificent Alpine flowering meadow in view, we rode steadily uphill past the Sonnenberg restaurant and continued along the gravel road to Allmendhubel. This natural terrace at 1,900 metres above sea level is a popular family destination. As we wanted to avoid the commotion taking place between the restaurant and playground, we sat down on the grass in front of the fence on the Hubel and enjoyed the extensive views.
There were hikers going up the Allmendhubel from the side of the Winteregg. It would have surely been wonderful to cycle on this natural path – but my technical riding skills are definitely not good enough for that. And I would not want to try now that I am carrying this little biker in my stomach. So we took the same route back to Mürren, but at the big farm we took the Direttissima towards the Schilthornbahn. At the Alpenruh restaurant we ate Älplermagronen from the copper pan, which tasted exactly as it should, and this gave us the energy we needed for the journey back to Grindelwald.
If this tour were a pizza, it would be a Quattro Staggioni (four seasons) pizza and hence very diverse indeed! I hope you have a lot of fun if you do the tour! It may not be the most beautiful route in this area, but it is quite a unique one.
Then the taxi driver in Naples dropped us off at a small piazza and pointed towards a narrow alleyway: "Your hotel is over there. This is as far as my car will go". As he was pulling my suitcase out of the boot, he said: "You know, years ago when my wife asked me as to what kinds of women I preferred, I made the mistake of giving her a reply. Telling people about your favourites never goes down well – and the person you are talking to is sure to be disappointed".
About the writer
Yvonne Zurbrügg, 33, enjoys writing very much. Being Made in Bern (she grew up in Grindelwald, her parents came from Lenk and Frutigen is her hometown) is such a part of her identity that it may as well be tattooed on her arm. However, she does not like tattoos and she also loves being a citizen of a liberal Switzerland. A journalist, she lives in Zurich with her soon-to-be husband (a physical fitness woder) and their soon-to-be son (he is sure to be a professional cyclist although he is still in the womb now). Although a native of Bern, she has very much enjoyed living in Zurich for the past ten years.